To master this uniquely Italian brewing style requires some trial-and-error, lots of practice, and good equipment.
The appropriate grind is very important for any good coffee, but for espresso the grind is critical. Often it takes a few practice shots to determine the correct grind for any particular coffee bean and espresso machine. If the grind is too coarse, the coffee will be thin and weak; if the grind is too fine, the coffee will be over-extracted and bitter. Of course, at Aura we recommend that you grind the coffee immediately before brewing; a burr grinder produces the best and most consistent espresso grind. Small burr grinders are available for home use that can be adjusted to accommodate different brewing methods.
An espresso should take 20-25 seconds to brew in a home espresso machine with a strong pump. The amount of espresso, the fineness of grind and the pressure used to tamp the espresso into the portafilter all contribute to the duration the hot water is in contact with the coffee. As the coffee begins to emerge from the portafilter, you may initially see a very dark burst--this is immediately followed by the liquor that should have the consistency of flowing honey. As the espresso flows into the cup, there should be a caramel-colored foam (“crema”) on top. When the espresso flow begins to lose color and develop ripples, turn off the switch or pull the cup away—the remaining fluid tastes weak and bitter.
A fully extracted, properly prepared single espresso yields 1 to 1-1/2 fluid ounces (30-45cc), about the size of a shot glass or about half of a small demitasse cup. A properly-made espresso is complex and balanced, with a concentrated yet sweet flavor. If you prefer it weaker, add hot water or hot milk to the brewed espresso.
Pull the Perfect Shot:
Grind, Measure and Tamp
- Grind coffee immediately before brewing.
- Measure coffee to fill the filter basket inside the portafilter. Approximately 7-9 gm (1-1.5 Tablespoons) for a single espresso; 14-18 gms for a double shot.
- Press down on the grounds firmly with a tamper so they are flat and even--but not too hard! This takes some practice.
- Wipe away any coffee that may be on the rim of the portafilter.
- Insert the portafilter into the machine, and place a demitasse under the spout.
- Activate the pump by pulling the handle or pressing the brew switch.
- Stop the pump when the liquid flowing from the filter appears thin and develops ripples.
- Drink immediately to savor the complexity and ephemeral flavor. An espresso aficionado will consume an espresso in only two sips. The first sip coats the tongue and palate and provides a sharp, tangy sensation on the tongue. The second sip releases the subtle nuances of the individual espresso and provides the sweet aftertaste that can be enjoyed for anywhere between 20-45 minutes.